Below is the story of Sade Reed, a single mother working the overnight shift at a hospital, as told to Alicia Menendez during their time spent together.
I was 21 years old when I got pregnant with Aurora. I don’t think anybody’s ready to be a mom, at any age, but as soon as you have the child, it’s like everything kicks in. You have this baby and all you want to do is protect her and do everything you can for her.
I didn’t plan for my life to look like this, but sometimes life doesn’t’ go as planned. It was never my plan to be a single parent like my mom. She had me at 18, and then had my younger sister and brother. She was a single mom a long time before she met my stepdad, so she had to do everything for us. She was so strong and I have always admired her so much, but I don’t think I ever fully appreciated everything she did for us until I had to start doing the same for Aurora.
My mom always told me that being a mom was about putting your focus on that baby—everything else is pushed to the side. So when I had Aurora I had to push my dreams of being a fashion designer on the back burner so I could do what was best for our family.
I work 12-hour overnight shifts as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), three to five days a week. With overtime, I bring in between $1,400 and $1,600 a month after taxes, which isn’t enough. My bills, the essentials things, like our apartment, car and food add up to about $1,300 a month.
Thankfully I have Medicaid to lean on for Aurora’s monthly medications. Aurora, who is now six years old, suffers from Asthma and has allergies to a number of things including anaphylaxis to certain foods. I can’t afford her medications without Medicaid.
Unfortunately, I don’t receive food stamps. I have actually been denied because I make too much money, which is crazy because I can barely survive on what I make. I pay out of pocket for food and sometimes I have to go to food pantries. I’ve gotten stamps on and off in the past, but it’s not something I can rely on. I used to receive some help from W.I.C but that ended when my daughter turned five.
In a way, Aurora kind of saved me. I was going through a lot before I had her. I was in a dark place. It’s like everything around me stopped. But now I’m trying to be positive, and that’s been getting me through the day-to-day. I’ve always been a positive person, but every once in awhile, the depression comes and I just shut down. But then, I remember Aurora. She is my motivation for everything. Even when I’m so tired and I don’t want to go to work, I have her picture right there in my car to remind me of why I keep pushing.
I try to take things one day at a time, but I still think about our future. I don’t want to keep living paycheck to paycheck and so I’ve thought about how I can make our lives better. I think about going back to school a lot but I wonder if it’s worth it. Is it worth taking out more loans for a job I may not even get? Do I bypass paying off my current loans and enroll in a new school, but lose all the credits I have already earned? When I think about my student debt, I am so disappointed because on top of the debt, I don’t have a degree. I don’t want to start all over, but I also want to find a way out.
I believe the struggle before you attain success or whatever you’re trying to pursue in life is a huge part of what makes the “American Dream”—to be able to go against the odds and still come out on top! Right now, I’m creating memories with my daughter—whether we’re playing in the park or going to the local zoo or beach, I try to cherish every moment with her. That’s my “American Dream.” Yes, it would be ideal to own a house and have a job in fashion, but right now that is not in focus. My focus is Aurora and bettering her life. I want her to be everything she wants to be, whatever it is.
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